Professionals in this sector help retail banks and insurance firms maintain their networks and systems to better serve their customers.
The growth of Internet and mobile banking services means that financial service providers are usually in need of a dedicated IT department to help manage and maintain day-to-day workflow and processes. While technology is primarily used to support functions like data management, security and transactions between firms and their partners or clients, IT also plays a huge role in helping financial institutions serve their customers better via other channels, e.g. ATMs, telephone banking, etc.
An international financial and IT hub in the ASEAN region, Singapore is quick to adopt the latest technologies to cater to the IT needs of these organisations. The race to tap the prospects of financial technology, or FinTech, has opened up employment opportunities in the financial sector for computing and IT graduates.
That said, the highly volatile nature of the global economy has seen many banks reduce their in-house IT spending and opt to outsource their IT needs to technology providers. As such, graduate recruitment is expected to experience sluggish growth, setting the ground for a competitive job market.
Employers in this sector typically fall under the following three categories:
- Product providers: Organisations that offer financial products, such as retail and online banks, investment management companies, as well as insurance and actuarial firms. The list also includes other less conventional corporations that provide financial services and products (e.g. supermarkets, post offices, mortgage houses, etc.).
- Service providers: Companies that work hand-in-hand with product providers to offer advisory and other forms of assistance. Financial advisors, actuarial firms, and business consultancy organisations fall into this category.
- Technology providers: IT firms that cater to the software and technological needs of product and service providers.
In most cases, product and service providers are dominated by large organisations and most have graduate programmes to ease new recruits into the company (e.g. operations, infrastructure/architecture, security, etc.). Employees under these programmes undergo rotation in different roles before being assigned a position. Such programmes can last anywhere from 3 to 6 months.
Good communication and problem-solving skills are vital as many IT roles entail working in teams and handling tasks that involve troubleshooting.
Technology providers, on the other hand, are typically smaller in size, and will recruit graduates directly into specific roles, unlike graduate programmes. It is also common for employers to put you in charge of responsibilities early on, and expectations can be quite steep, so you will need to be able to manage your employers’ expectations.
While working with product and service providers enable a wider exposure to the different IT aspects of a large firm, a career alongside technology providers allows the development of specific skill sets at a faster rate.
As a member of the IT fraternity in the financial sector, your scope of work will typically revolve around several functions:
- Application development: Development of software and programmes to improve the organisation’s facilities for both staff and users.
- Infrastructure: Building and maintaining of hardware and software components essential for daily operations.
- Support: Provide assistance to users of the IT products/systems (e.g. staff members or customers) and troubleshooting when required. This will entail more client interaction compared to the other two roles.
Besides the necessary technical skills needed to tackle technological issues, you should also be passionate about the financial services industry and be up-to-date with the latest trends in both IT and finance.
For instance, many economists and IT experts in the financial services industry are touting the popularity of bitcoin-inspired currency systems and other FinTech efforts. There have also been discussions about crowd-sourced identity systems that are based off social media. Being aware of such trends in detail will help you stand out from the other candidates.
While a degree in computer science is not a must, employers tend to exercise preference for candidates with a background in science. Good communication and problem-solving skills are vital as many IT roles entail working in teams and handling tasks that involve troubleshooting.
Equally important attributes are integrity, credibility and having a good eye for detail – these are particularly essential as professionals in financial services are often involved in managing massive and confidential financial data for organisations such as banks.
Pros and cons
Many IT professionals derive immense satisfaction from being able to innovate and roll out IT applications that have a practical impact on the banking experience of the masses. A combination of both technology and finance, this sector is especially apt for those who are keen in holding a tech role, but wants to be actively involved in the commercial sector as well.
Learning opportunities are also in abundance as you will have to constantly keep yourself updated with the latest technologies used in the financial services industry.
On most days, work-life balance is guaranteed, but every now and then, you may be required to stay behind after regular work hours for system/network maintenance.